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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Talentless Hack Though I Am

It's fun to pull out my guitar and try to record something. Once again I can only manage a 45 second evocation... a fragment of emotion... rather than a whole song. Regardless, I put it out there for you to hear if only to confirm that I did something creative this week.

Click Me

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sun Dreams

Walked to work today in the snow. After a week of bitter sub-freezing cold, we finally got a bit of precipitation to turn everything white. This is easily the coldest winter I can remember.

Which is why it feels so good to know that I've booked my tickets to Mexico. In just over a week I'll be flying down to Los Cabos with my nephew. I've never been one to soak in the sun or try to get a tan... but nothing sounds better right now than slathering myself up with coconut oil and roasting myself to a nice brown.

Until then... I have this:

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

M Ward Moment


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Fear of a Successful Black Man

George Will's latest article may make you dizzy, so I've tried to distill his point for the loyal Stave It Off readers. He claims that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. By way of example, he depicts a civil rights issue.

Forty years ago, in an attempt to prevent racist discrimination in the workplace, the Supreme Court made it very difficult on employers to use aptitude tests during hiring and promotion processes. After all, many of these standardized tests had been shown to have cultural biases. The result (according to Will) was that employers could no longer directly gauge your intelligence, and had to use college degrees as evidence instead. This wound up being even more discriminatory, since the college system had built-in cultural and economic barriers for African Americans. I guess millions of smart young blacks were being told "Sorry, we'd love to hire you, but you've got to go get a degree first!" Will seals his point with an alarming statistic... between 1970 and 2005 the total college attendance nearly tripled in America! This is somehow a bad thing.

Will then concludes his essay with a poorly executed paragraph pointing the bony finger of doom at the incoming Obama administration. Using this half-assed example from the 70's (which really just shows that affirmative action is still needed in both work and education sectors) Will suggests that Obama's reform plans will have the same sort of disastrous outcomes. When are we going to learn NOT to have good intentions!? Apparently "wealth redistribution" just causes greater hardship on the poor, environmental regulation causes a hastening of global warming, and supporting labor unions causes greater abuse of the working class.

Be wary progressives, lest someone forty years from now cherry pick some data and sort of prove that you weren't quite as successful as you tried to be. But George Will is not a stupid man, nor does he live in Bizarro World. So what is really going on? Why is he casting such meager aspersions? And why did he choose to use the example of intelligent blacks being discriminated against to demonstrate his point about unintended consequences?

Well, first of all, George Will is an unapologetic racist. In his book Men at Work - The Craft of Baseball he chose Cal Ripken as his exemplar of defensive skill. In an era where Ozzie Smith (a black man) was destroying Ripken in every defensive metric imaginable, there is no excuse for this. And what token black did he choose for his book? Tony Gwynn. Tony freakin' Gwynn... with his squeaky little voice and his astonishing lack of power... he was the Urkel of baseball.

It seems quite obvious to me what Will's underlying message is here. If Barack Obama could have gotten a high-paying job without having to go to college, we'd all be a lot better off right now. We wouldn't have uppity Negroes with college degrees trying to bust down the doors of power in Washington. That could be reserved for white men of privilege... like it had been for the 43 previous administrations.

What we're really talking about here is the fear of a fully-realized black man. The old rules were: If you're going to be sexy, be dumb. If you're going to be smart, be effeminate. We didn't want to see black role models that were both sexy and smart. And frankly, that's a fear that we all need to face. God knows I can't watch too many Will Smith movies without starting to feel woefully inadequate myself. But now there's a new bench mark. Barack Obama has raised the stakes. Just take a look at the checklist George Will:

He's better at sports than you are. Okay, lots of black men are better at sports than you are... but usually that's okay because you're better at other things. It's important to note that he still has skillz though. This is no Carlton Banks we're talking about here.

He's smarter than you are. He hangs out with a higher class of college professors, has published better books than you and probably finishes the Saturday NYT crossword puzzle every week. He was even the first guy to pronounce Pakistan correctly.

His smile is brighter than yours. Good lord that's a winning grin. I mean, how do you compete with that. You're certainly not going to win with that grimace.

He seems to genuinely love his wife and children. Compare that to the usual slew of mistresses, divorces and catty Clintonesque power games usually going on in Washington. And compare his class act children to the typical parade of troglodytes farting all over their 4-8 years of spotlight. This guy even has family values locked down.

He did better drugs than you when he was a kid. Sure, you and Clinton may have tried some "grass" that your roommates were smoking, but Obama was trippin' balls on LSD and tootin' coke off of Studio 54 bathroom mirrors. He didn't squander his youth attending William F. Buckley summer camps.

He's lived and traveled all over the world. Kinda leaves that whole, "I spent a summer studying in England" thing in the dust.

And now there's this. This. THIS. THIS is what's haunting your dreams George Will. This is what white male America wasn't expecting and is still staggered by. You knew he was smart. You knew he had Chicagoan bad-boy charm. You knew he was poised. But you were not prepared for the glistening abs and pecs of our new president elect. You weren't prepared for the photoshoot of the century as Obama frolicked in the Hawaiian surf. It has rocked you to your soul, and you pray each night that Mrs. Will isn't having fantasies of Barack in her dreams.

Well, deal with it instead of writing crooked finger posts on your blog.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Who Needs MTV

It's not like you can see great independent music videos on MTV anyway. Here's to the YouTube, making life easy for a blogger since it's inception. Start off 2009 with these brilliant Iron and Wine videos. First "Naked as they Come" where a single shot reveals two completely different picnic tables. It's nice when simplicity isn't quite as simple as you first imagine.

And secondly, "Boy with a Coin" featuring some of those flamenco arms that John Singer Sargent loved so much. And if you aren't watching carefully (given the bad resolution) you might miss the magic dress worn by this troupe's teacher.